Austrian Must-Try Wines (MTWs)
I have blogged enough about Austria in general but it’s time for the real stuff, a few wines and the winemakers behind them. These guys sure know what they are they and how to go about achieving it. If nature speaks in mysterious ways, these people are like wind-whisperers, with senses more synced than those Blue people in Avatar! They are the Buddhists in the world of wine, so at one with the multiple elements that constitute wine. And so obvious is this message of “natural symbiotic compliance” that even a single sip of their wines will dawn upon you an idea of their respective philosophies. Ironically, at such levels of quality, the adopted path maybe different but the ultimate message, the final goal, is uncannily yet unsurprisingly similar. Here are excerpts from my interactions with a handful of them. I could drone on but that would only blur the message, and spoil it for you for when you do get to meet them. To make it more fun, I’m awarding them a little Magan’s Two-bit worth of what I made of their wines (do check out the pics gallery in the end for more wines.) This truly was my Test of Taste…
a. The Purity Award: Prieler. Georg may be the young budding scion but his work speaks for itself. He loves his vines and all he wishes is for them to be happy and express this happiness in their fruit. He isn’t too particularly bothered with the whole Organic and Bio-Dynamic rage but he does maintain a healthy viewpoint towards the subject. Sustainable, Reasonable, Humble, (ladies, I also think he’s single) and an absolute fun person to share a glass with.
b. Bio-Crazy-Dynamic Award: Meinklang. Often the problem with BD is that winemakers seem to get into this one-uppance, a constant competitive effort at being crazier at showing just how dedicated and devoted they are to the whole movement. Short of wearing Kaftans with wavy patterned prints from the 70s, their preaching can sometimes even out-noise the din of those ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’ freaks! But this man really gets the trophy for being so bio-dynamic that nature herself would be proud. Un-pruned vineyards, a count of 600 animals to provide all that you need to re-
nourish the land, special in-house designed eggs that draw on all the classic symbols representing the 4 elements (and the fifth one of life) in the classic Pentagon…I could go on. Point is this: the stories will definitely entice you, making you feel like a child gathered around a fire listening to your favourite fairy tales, and the wines are not bad at all either.
c. The Roter Specialist: Mantlerhof. The Doctor deserves more accolades than just for this wine, for e.g. the Slow Food wine man, the balanced thinker winemaker, and a few others that I think I’d best save for future years. He is wise and a gentleman. He explained to me at length the idea of various viticulture approaches and never once was criticising of a format even if he didn’t personally subscribe to it. but his wines were proof that whatever it was that he believed in, was solid stuff enough to translate into premium quality into the bottle.
d. The Crystal Ball of Appreciation: Malat: If you ever wish to understand simple understated winemaking which is rich in minerality and yet with fruit aplenty, then you have your man right here. Very hands on and very energetic, Michael (and his lovely lady) explains it all so simply, leaving you wondering that if it is as straightforward as he says, then why don’t then all the wines in the world show such crystalline clarity?
e. Crispness and Coolness Award: Markus Huber. Markus, ably assisted by his brother Michael, make wines that are the pride of Traisenthal. They also hold the trophy perhaps for being undisputedly the most photogenic winemakers – Gorgeous Grapemen anyone? – which might one day explain why girls enjoy their wines with their extra stimulus to their amygdala, whereas the guys are merely OD-ing on the lovely minerality of Traisenthal soils, and maybe some cortisone and jealousy.
f. The Pioneer: Nikolaihof Wachau. So this guy went BD even before the concept was even remotely popular. That was back in 1972 and it wasn’t until 1992 that the certification formally arrived. Didn’t deter them then and doesn’t now either. The wines age endlessly in big barrels and are bottled when our man-at-arms thinks they’ve come of age; like a doting father guiding his young tots through the many stages till they are old enough to make their own mistakes. Err, I think I drifted back there, but you got the point. He cares, and when you taste a 1995 Riesling which still tastes as
fresh as the day it was put in barrel, you start caring a lot too.
g. The Bad Boy Award: Weingut Andreas Tscheppe. So I am borrowing from my another wine friend, Jean-Luc Thunevin, the original ‘Bad Boy’ of wine but this man here should be equally and aptly titled. He may seem a lot more docile but his approach to winemaking leaves no doubt about his rebel tendencies. For one, many of wines don’t have the approval to carry the Austrian Banderoll as ‘the wines were found to not conform to the local taste’. I don’t know enough to comment further but I can safely assure you that his Gelber Muskateller tasted like a good Gelber Musataller and his Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs tasted like something drawn from a very expensive wine cellar! The last wine he showed us was an
Erdfass, i.e. buried in earth. He literally buries the casks in the ground during winters, when the energies are all pulled back in there and in spring as things blossom, and energy cycles reverse, he removes them. Not even a glass’s worth of ouillage occurs and wines, apart from the benefit of ageing in a naturally temperature-controlled environment, also mange to evolved in some very unprecedented ways, all of them enjoyable and complexity-endowing. He is BD too but he and his buddies, all from Styria, converge their philosophy under the “Schmeke das Lieben” label: Taste the life (oh no not another BD group you say). For the price, the wines are a steal, and, frankly, the fact that they don’t have a banderol is very James Dean and only further adds to their appeal for the aficionados looking for new and rare finds.
Long entry that. I bet you skipped through half of it. I know I did and I was the one writing it! Either ways, thanks and all that, etc. here are some more pics, definitely wines worth trying but am too tired to write about them…